Listen like you are wrong—How to be better learners as leaders

October 18, 2022

Listen like you are wrong—How to be better learners as leaders

“You learn when you listen. You earn when you listen, not just money but respect.” — Harvey Mackay

During my interview with David Livermore recently, he mentioned a quote he heard from his friend that really struck me: “Argue like you're right, listen like you’re wrong.” In business, communication is key to getting ideas and messages across, especially for brainstorming that sparks creativity and innovation. As leaders, we need to learn how to speak up and share our perspectives. But it was the second half of the quote that I found really interesting—listen like you are wrong.

Effective listening is an indispensable skill for great communication. It is also very crucial for learning. When we keep in mind that we are not always the smartest people in the room and that what we know to be true might not always be what is right, we humbly open ourselves to growth.

It is important for leaders to be lifelong learners, and listening like we are wrong helps us become more receptive to new ideas and perspectives.

Studies have proven that active listening is important for childhood development and education, and that carries over even into adulthood. Learn to listen to other people’s opinions and arguments. Try to see the world through their eyes and think, “If I have to defend their perspective, what arguments would I have to make?”

It challenges you to not only listen actively and effectively and be empathetic, but it allows you to think critically as well. To examine new knowledge and perspectives, try them on for size, and see whether this new “truth” withstands the tests of your context.

As the leader, a lot of responsibilities fall on you: The job of encouraging your team to take ownership of their roles in the organization’s shared mission; creating an environment that welcomes a healthy debate for ideas; ensuring that everyone on the team is accountable for outcomes; and taking all those into account for decision-making.

The more we listen, the more we stretch ourselves and our thinking. We learn more, not just from our peers and our betters, but also from the people who follow us. Reading books is important, but it's not the only way to learn and grow professionally and personally. We can also learn from watching and listening to other people.

As the Dalai Lama said, “When you speak, you repeat what you know. When you listen, you learn something new.”

Listening not only allows us to learn, but we can also get profitable opportunities and ideas, and most importantly, we gain the respect of those around us. 

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.